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Good stuff Matt...I'll fill in the gaps (archive)

[ Follow Ups ] [ M5 (E34) Message Board ] [ Msg. Board FAQ ]

Posted by John Builder on December 06, 2001 at 18:53:47:

In Reply to: No good source of info out there... What I know is posted by Matt P on December 05, 2001 at 23:34:06:

Pretty good Matt. I'll follow up a little. If and when contacting an R.I., make sure they have an EPA certificate for the 12 month period you plan to import on the year you plan to import. The certificate approval process is grueling, basically the same process BMW must go through for each class of car they import to the US. If the importer doesn't have one, well just walk away. This process takes months and must be done by someone with INTIMATE knowledge of the E34 M5 emissions system.

The DOT bond is released 30 days after approval, but the car can be driven away. The EPA approval is 15 business days after filing of a particular car on the above mentioned approved certificate.

A word of caution to anyone considering this -- the EPA emissions test is effectively a "new" car test, meaning the Euro M5 with 50,000 miles must have near new car emissions to pass. One can imagine how difficult this is, particularly when each car has its own "quirks", leaky fuel pump, air pump, etc. etc. and the test is a mandatory cold start, which effects the Euro model particularly hard b/c the distance between the cat and the headers is longer than that on the US model and it takes longer to warm and do its job correctly. I am 13 months and counting on a couple of cars myself right now.

All that being said I have a black 94 touring for sale sometime in January as my RI's certificate was just approved by the EPA, I passed emissions right after Thanksgiving and I'll finally have the car in my possession around Christmas. Whew!

JB in Atlanta

'94 Euro Sedan
'94 Euro Touring (for sale)
'95 Euro Sedan (for sale)

Most of the info that applys to the 3.8L M5 sedans also applys to the touring model. That plus the info on the 525iT and 530iT Touring models that were sold here should provide a good picture.

All 890 M5 Tourings made had the 3.8L engine (1992-1995).

The 1995 model year tourings recieved significant upgrades (as did the Sedans): 6-speed transmission, 13.6" floating front rotors, Nurburing Suspension with EDC III electronic adjustments. Only 119 Tourings made for 1995.

No M5 tourings were ever oficially sold in the United States, but somewhere from 8 to 18 have been privatley imported - The numbers are hard to track down and no one knows for sure. Not all of the M5 Tourings in the USA are "Legal" for use.

To import an M5 Touring (or 3.8L M5 Sedan) into the US and make it legal for use on US roads will cost at least $10,000 (plus cost of purchase and shipping via boat) and take from 3 to 6+ Months to complete.

Importing an M5 involves several steps: Finding and purchasing the car itself (in western Europe usually), arranging shipping of the car, getting it cleared in through customs, having it modified to comply with all US laws, then getting the car certified and signed-off on by the DOT and EPA.

An alternative is to find a M5 Touring that is already in the USA and is for sale. I've seen 2 for sale in the last 12 months (1 on autotrader, 1 on eBay), with an average price around $36,000 -- though given the numbers that may have been an above average year for M5 Touring resales. :-)

To find the car, you can hunt yourself or use contacts in Europe - there are a couple of people who are looking full-time for E34 3.8L M5's to import into the USA - they probably have the best leads.

Both purchasing and shipping is helped obviously by having someone in the country of origin or being there yourself to take care of papaerwork and things.

Once a car arrives in a US Port in a shipping container, a customs broker is needed to get it out. They provide things like necessary bonds and paperwork. You'll also have to pay an import duty of 2.5% of the purchase price.

The car is not legal to drive, so it has to be trucked to someone who will make it legal. The only entity that can do that is a Registered Importer. Presently there are about 30 Regitered Importers in the USA (Registered as in Registered with Government) and each one only deals with certain types of vehicles. Only about 2 to 5 are known to even work on European Sedans & Wagons, and only one that I know of has any significant experience with importing the 3.8L M5 cars... They've done at least 8 M5's and a few other E34's (like 525iX) Others may only have done one E34 total.

The registered importer has a few jobs to do: One is to make the car DOT (Department of Trnasportation) Compliant. This is mostly things like adding side marker lights, adding Center High Mounted Rear Stop Lights, switching to US bumpers and Headlights, changing the speedo to MPH from KM/Hr and the like. The car also has to have dual airbags. Pre '95 M5's might not have passanger airbags, so add a few grand in that case. This part should be a pretty fixed cost.

Another thing the Registered Importer has to do get the engine to pass the EPA's polution test. This is far stricter and mor involved than *ANY* state emissions testing. It involves putting the car on a dyno, running through a battery of sequences and capturing everything single thing that comes out of the tailpipe for analysis. It's basically the same things BMW does to certify an engine for sale in the US. It costs almost $2,000 a test, and must be passed 100% To achieve this with a 3.8L M5, it is usually necessary to Perform an Inspection 2, replace the O2 sensor, and replace the catalytic converter if it has more than 10,000 miles on it. Even then, it can be a close call. Putting a new catalyist from the US 3.6L M5 engine on instead of the 3.8L cat helps to pass the car as it is a larger unit. Still, if anything in the engine is out of spec, it'll need to be fixed and sent back for another take (costing $$$$) before you can proceed.

After each of these processes (DOT and EPA), the car has to just sit around for a period of time (usually 1 month) which is a time period the DOT and EPA reserve to come out and re-inspect the car in. It can not be driven during this time.

Finally, the Registered Importer will handle a lot of government paper work for you, and get you set up with what you need to register the car in your home state nice and legally. They will charge you nicely for this exclusive service.

When you register the car, you probably have to pay sales tax on it to your state govt. (I'm not sure here).

Finally, the M5 Touring requires regular maintance from a dealer or independant shop that is equipped to deal with it. The valves need to .. no *MUST* be adjusted every 12,000 miles. The water pumps should be replaced no later than every 50,000 miles - consider them a disposable part. And of course, all the normal maintaince that comes with an E34.

Whew, I know there are other things, but that's all I can think of off the top of my head.

-Matt P
'90 535i
'95 525iT

Can someone direct me to a good source for information on these cars? My Dad wants to buy a pickup truck and I'm trying to talk him into an E34 M5 Touring instead. (I own an E28 M5 myself.) I've checked several of the BMW sites that I know about and haven't found a satisfactory information source. Many thanks.

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